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Closed Guard Overhook Combinations—a BJJ Tutorial

Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.

Using moves from the closed guard overhook.

Using moves from the closed guard overhook.

The Power of the Overhook in Closed Guard

The overhook is a powerful tool in BJJ, and while the technique works in both gi and no-gi, when you have the gi, the effects are amplified because of the increased friction. This makes escapes much more complicated and challenging. What follows is a very strong overhook combination sequence that is simple enough for anyone to start working with right away. This will definitely get you started with a fantastic sequence both I and many of my students have been very successful with over the years.


There are quite a few effective ways to control posture in the guard, but one simple way to start with is by pulling your partner's elbows out and then bringing your knees to your chest (make sure to move your head out of the way so you don't get inadvertently headbutted!). With your right hand, control your partner's head and start swimming around your partner's right hand from the back, almost like you are going to try to comb your hair from here. This will remove your partner's hand from your chest or lapel, and will allow you to swim around the arm. As soon as your arm starts to complete the circle, scoot your hips out to the left, allowing much more range. There are lots of places to go from here (see overhook triangle setups for many more uses of the overhook), but a nice, simple use is to grab a deep feed inside the collar with your left hand (the one that is overhooking their arm). Help this get deeper by feeding with your (now free) right hand. Now your right hand can reach over the top to grab the fabric on your partner's right side (your left), completing a cross collar choke. In this version, you're actually flaring your elbows out, contrary to a typical collar choke, so the choke won't be as technical as a typical (non-overhook) choke, but it will get the desired result.

Option 1: Stuff Triangle

Keeping in mind that the choke is going to be fairly easily defended, particularly since your elbows need to flare out to finish it, it's apparent that just about anyone is going to push your elbow in as a natural reaction to the choke. It's exactly this predictable reaction that you're looking for. Use the fact that your partner is pushing with their left hand to control their wrist with your right hand, pinning it to their chest. Their trapped wrist is exactly where you want it now. Keeping the wrist pinned the entire time, shift your hips back to your left, allowing much more room for your right leg to jump over and around their elbow. Only release the wrist once you've jumped over their elbow and hand. Now you have a nice, simple triangle.

Sleeve and Then Figure Four Grip

Alternatively, your partner might preemptively defend the choke by blocking the first hand (the overhooking hand) from getting the initial cross collar grip. Again, this presents the ambitious jiu-jitsu practitioner (hey, that's you!) with a new option. Grab their left sleeve with your left hand. This really traps them, as your overhook and sleeve control really make for a tough combination to defend. Next, you're essentially going to do a much stronger version of the last technique. Start by switching to a pinning grip, just like before. After pinning their sleeve to their chest (and reinforcing it in the meantime with that tough sleeve grip), switch to a figure four grip, where your left hand reinforces your right (pinning) hand. This is incredibly frustrating and hard to break out of. Finally, jump over for the inevitable triangle as before, shifting your hips back to your left as needed.

That's a Wrap

The overhook grip has long been a staple of my BJJ game both in gi and no-gi. These techniques are simple enough so that you can start using them right away, but if you get the overhook, they work on a surprisingly broad range of partners and opponents, all the way up to black belt (I'll make the standard disclaimer that you might not tap out black belts right away with this stuff!). Over time, make them a part of your go-to closed guard game and you will reap some amazingly big rewards.